Healthy Baby, Healthy Marriage? The Effect of Children's Health on Divorce

Angela R. Fertig, Princeton University

This paper investigates whether the health of children affects the likelihood that their parents divorce. This topic is relevant to the debate over whether the economic status of families affects children's health: if the poor health of children promotes greater family dissolution, then children's health problems could be the cause rather than the result of children's economic status. Using the 1988 National Health Interview Survey, the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, and the 1970 British Birth Cohort Study, I find that low birth weight children are at a higher risk of experiencing parental divorce than children of normal birth weight in the US, but not in the UK. While the difference across countries suggests that divorce is not a universal avenue through which health and economic status are related, part of the gradient observed in children's health in the US may run from health to income.

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Presented in Session 66: Union Dissolution